Fire Science Degree Programs in Illinois | Firefighter Training

Written by Timothy Levin
Last Updated: Feb 6, 2020

Becoming a firefighter in Illinois can make for an exceptionally rewarding career. Across the country, firefighters put out housefires and assist in response to medical emergencies, natural disasters, and wildfires.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that firefighters will see a 5% growth in employment opportunities from 2018-2028, creating around 17,600 new jobs. The steady demand for firefighters stems from the continued threat that fires and other hazards pose to the U.S. population.

This guide reviews how to become a firefighter in Illinois. It covers key topics, including firefighter requirements, hiring processes, and training programs. Below, you can consult some frequently asked questions and a list of useful professional resources for firefighters.

Firefighter Requirements in Illinois

The process for becoming a firefighter in Illinois varies depending on the local area in which you plan to work. As opposed to some other occupations, there are no official national or statewide regulations for working as a firefighter. Instead, each fire department determines the requirements for their new recruits. The specific written tests, physical fitness exams, and other expectations you need to meet depend on the city, county, or town you wish to serve.

For instance, Park Forest's fire department judges applicants based on a written exam and an interview. The department creates an eligibility list of career firefighters every two years, drawing from the list as openings arise. Candidates may earn extra points on their test scores with military service or other relevant training. They must agree to a drug screening, a medical exam, a background check, and a physiological exam.

Many fire departments in Illinois share some basic expectations. Most require candidates to be at least 21 years old and hold EMT and/or paramedic certification. Firefighters must often complete basic operations firefighter (BOF) training, the entry-level training requirement developed by the Office of the State Fire Marshal's Division of Personnel Standards and Education.

Becoming a Firefighter in Illinois: Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the specific training for Illinois?

    Most fire departments in the state require BOF training, formerly known as firefighter II. Many departments mandate that candidates complete training before applying or taking exams. BOF training includes practical exercises, classes, and daily fitness training.

  • Is EMT/paramedic/other training or certification required?

    Nearly all fire departments in Illinois require some form of emergency medical services training. Aspiring firefighters usually need to become emergency medical technicians (EMTs). They may also need to earn paramedic certification.

  • What is the test like for firefighters in Illinois?

    As mentioned above, each fire department in Illinois sets its own testing requirements, and departments often administer written and oral exams. Upon completing BOF training, firefighters take a state exam.

  • What kind of shape should I be in to be a firefighter?

    Firefighting is a very physically demanding job, and firefighters need to be in great shape. Firefighter requirements in Illinois departments sometimes administer the candidate physical ability test, which includes events such as a stair climb, hose drag, and ladder raise.

  • What if I only want to fight wildfires in Illinois?

    Wildland firefighters typically work seasonally. They need to complete basic training courses that follow standards set by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group. The Illinois Division of Forest Resources conserves the state's forests and oversees wildfire management.

  • How long does it take to become a firefighter in Illinois?

    The time it takes to become a firefighter in Illinois varies among fire departments. EMT courses take 4-6 months to complete, and paramedic programs require an additional year of study. Some departments only hire candidates older than 21.

Firefighter Courses and Programs in Illinois

Firefighters generally need to complete extensive training, which prepares them to stay calm and collected in emergency situations. In addition to firefighter training, aspiring firefighters can take advantage of related educational programs from a variety of firefighter schools in Illinois.

Future firefighters should research local regulations before enrolling in firefighter courses in Illinois, but most recruits need to complete programs that lead to EMT or paramedic certification. Aspiring firefighters may also benefit from degrees in fields like fire science or emergency services administration. See below for more information on the academic programs available to firefighters.

College of DuPage

Program Name Associate of Applied Science in Fire Science
Program Description College of DuPage's fire science degree is recognized by the Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education Program. The program targets aspiring firefighters and experienced employees in the fire science field. Students take classes on topics such as emergency services, fire prevention, arson, and hazardous materials. They also complete training for their BOF certification.

Harper College

Program Name Emergency Medical Technician Certificate
Program Description This nine-credit program qualifies graduates to take the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians exam. Students build basic knowledge of emergency medical care and learn to deliver basic life support according to national EMS education standards. Coursework explores the response to various medical and trauma emergencies, such as cardiac arrest, stroke, and seizures.

Illinois Central College

Program Name Associate of Applied Science Paramedic Program
Program Description This paramedic preparation program holds accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. The 65-credit degree takes two years to complete, including two summer terms. Courses discuss topics like advanced cardiac life support, trauma life support, pharmacology, and anatomy. Students complete multiple practicums.

Fire Science Colleges in Illinois

Degree Level
School Type

Firefighter Salaries and Job Growth in Illinois

According to the BLS, Illinois is the fifth-largest employer for firefighters in the United States. In the short term, Illinois is projected to need close to 400 new firefighters from 2018-2020. From 2018-2028, Projections Central expects employment for firefighters to grow by more than 4%.

Firefighters in Illinois enjoy high salaries, as compared to fire protection professionals in the rest of the country. The national median salary for firefighters is $49,620, and firefighters in Illinois earn $56,710. Chicago's firefighters typically make over $63,000, and the top 10% of firefighters in the state take home over $98,000 per year. Geographic location plays a big role in firefighter salary in Illinois, as does overall professional experience.

National Average Salaries for Firefighters

0-12 Months

Entry Level

1-4 Years

Early Career

5-9 Years


10-19 Years



Source: PayScale

Firefighter Resources in Illinois

Aspiring, entry-level, and seasoned firefighters alike can benefit from professional resources and organizations. Fortunately for firefighters in Illinois, several associations and unions in the state help firefighters bargain, advocate for better legislation, receive the benefits they deserve, and plan for the future. Moreover, chapter meetings, conferences, publications, and newsletters help members stay informed about trends and news relevant to firefighters.

Professional associations also provide continuing education and professional development resources to help firefighters grow in their careers. For example, the International Association of Fire Fighters boasts an online learning center, HAZMAT training, scholarships, and a job center.

International Association of Fire Fighters

The IAFF serves over 318,000 firefighters and paramedics. It lobbies on behalf of firefighters and offers a huge array of services including legal advice, retirement planning, grant application assistance, and information on certifications.

Illinois Firefighters Association

This professional association supports firefighters through training, education, and benefits. It offers a resource library, publications, and training programs. Members can also attend an annual conference.

Illinois Professional Firefighters Association

IPFA, a non-union membership organization, works to protect firefighter pension benefits in Illinois. It offers seminars on pension issues, plus a newsletter, helpful links, and information on lobbying efforts.

Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois

The AFFI hosts social events and meetings where firefighters can discuss bargaining and legislative issues. The AFFI protects firefighters' benefits and works to elect candidates who support their goals.

Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal

The State Fire Marshal's Office works with fire departments to enhance fire safety in Illinois. Through this site, you can explore statewide fire-related regulations and BOF training standards.